We may often be a little low on sky water, but here in the Texas Hill Country, there's usually plenty of sun. Last year, we began to create a solar backup system that we can use when the grid goes down (yes, it does occasionally do that), or in places on our homestead where we can't just plug in a power cord. This solar panel kit that Bill bought from Harbor Freight is our first-stage effort, shown here on our south-facing porch. It generates enough power to fully charge a deep-cycle battery, which we can use to power lighting, radio & a small TV, cellphone recharge, short-term emergency refrigeration, and a pump that can pull water from the creek. Bill can also use the battery to power electrical handtools at remote spots here at MeadowKnoll.
Over the coming year, we'll be expanding the system to include more battery backup and additional panels. This is one of the projects that grew out of the experiences I wrote about in An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and our increasing realization that we can't always depend on the grid. Texas' recent episode of rolling blackouts is a sign of the fragility and vulnerability of our power system. We can't replace all our power needs in an emergency, but these panels and a couple of batteries give us a backup. Took some effort, some ingenuity, and a little cash (about $300 total)--a small investment for a big payoff.
Garden notes. We had 70+ hours of below-freezing temps here in the past couple of weeks, so some of my earlier plantings (carrots, radish, lettuce) didn't make it. The peas did, though: there's a row of strong plants, pea-green and perky, coming up along the garden fence. I started sprouting my seed potatoes (Reddale and Yukon Gold) in early January, in a box in the closet. Here they are, eager to go into the ground by the usual date: Valentine's Day.
Having raised beds makes early-season gardening a lot more comfortable, believe me. Yesterday, I planted spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and more peas--Wando, which are supposed to produce well in Southern heat. The Porter and Small Fry tomatoes that I seeded in flats under lights are now boasting their first set of true leaves. Another week, and I'll be potting them up. Time to seed peppers, too. We're still eating fresh spinach from last fall's planting (it's remarkably winter-hardy), green beans and peas from the freezer, and sweet potatoes from last summer's crop. I wrapped these in newspaper and stored them in a closet. We had them for supper last night, mashed with butter, some bits of candied ginger, and a spoonful of orange marmalade. Yum.
Book report. Unfortunate interruption last week in the writing work--both Bill and I got terrible colds, the worst in several years. I could read (after a fashion) but writing was out of the question and even knitting was too challenging. (Fancy that!) Being really, truly sick meant missing a week on this blog--but much worse, missing nine full days of writing work. I am currently behind on Cat's Claw. Looks like I have maybe three weeks' work ahead of me on the project. I'll get it done by deadline, but not much extra to spare. Glad I got an early start on the book.
An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days is getting some attention. Womensmemoirs.com posted a very nice review, and Writing Through Life published a two-part interview (Part One, Part Two) about the process of writing and editing that book, which was a huge challenge. In the interview, I was able to get into a bit of the book's back story and to say something about the enormous importance of journaling as a way to place ourselves in the world. That's where our real stories are located--in the nexus between our private, interior lives and the public lives we live out there in the world--and our journals are the places where we record those stories. An Extraordinary Year is my own personal effort to illustrate that vital fact.
Reading note: Do we really believe that we ca keep wasting our finite resources and polluting our biosphere in order to feed ourselves? Can we afford to maintain the systems of transportation necessary to move produce great distances, from southern California to the farthest reaches of New England? Today, the food most Americans will be eating next week is riding in a truck somewhere between Texas, Florida, California, or Mexico and where they live. Food is the most basic of human needs and the stuff that, when consumed, becomes an integral and physical part of who and what we are. It's frightening to think that we can so blithely leave it in the hands of strangers, taking it for granted as it rolls toward us from thousands of miles away.--Solar Gardening, by Leandere Poisson and Gretchen Vogel Poisson (1994)